The Audi S3 is available unlike most of its rivals is available in three guises - hatchback, cabriolet and saloon, which is designed to appeal to a wider audience than before.
Sizing the Audi S3 up
The obvious one is the Volkswagen Golf R – the S3’s sister car, but there is also the ridiculously quick Mercedes-AMG A45 and the all-paw Ford Focus RS and a better-rounded Honda Civic Type-R, which have all shaken up the established order. It was the fast Blue Oval's arrival that has prompted Audi to tweak the S3 along with alongside facelifting the A3 range - with the fast hatchback/saloon/cabriolet gaining an additional 10bhp, leaving it short of the Focus RS and A45, but ahead of the Golf R on the performance stakes.
It may seem ludicrous to some, to allow such a power deficit against convincing rivals, especially when you add the 365bhp BMW M2 into the mix, but it allowed Audi Sport to introduce a facelifted version of the monstrous RS3, which blows the AMG, RS and M2 out of the water with the 394bhp it produces from its five-cylinder engine.
The A45 arguably owes its existence to the highly successful template Audi established a decade and a half ago with the original S3, and while it isn’t in the same league as the upstart’s prodigious pace (that's the RS3's modus operandi), it does nudge everything in the right direction.
Overall, the car weighs 70kg less than before, mostly due to the lighter MQB platform now worn underneath, which also affords the Sportback, saloon and cabriolet its extra wheelbase length and (thanks to a thrown-forward front axle) a more favourable 59 percent front, 41 percent rear weight distribution.
As before, the S3’s four-wheel-drive set-up doesn’t benefit from a Torsen-based centre differential (or funky crown gear) that graces other Quattro models, instead sharing the updated Haldex multi-plate clutch system branded 4Motion elsewhere in the group.
Stick with the standard spec S3, which gets all the equipment found on a S line trimmed A3, plus 18in alloys, lowered sports suspension, a sporty bodykit, a quad-exhaust system, a Nappa leather upholstery and heated front seats. Decide you want the S3 in more practical saloon or captivating cabriolet forms, and you'll find 19in alloys and adaptive suspension fitted as standard. Those intent on making their S3 more meancing can opt for the Black Edition trim, which adds tinted rear windows, lots of gloss black exterior trim and a Bang & Olufsen stereo system. However, only the hatchbacks and the saloon are available in this trim.